Last month, less than 5,000 people voted in the Methuen preliminary election for city council. Methuen has approximately 57,000 people residing in the city limits.
That means less than 10% of the people in Methuen bothered to participate in the decision of who represents them in city government.
In Lawrence the numbers were frighteningly lower.
City to city and town to town, we are losing our democracy at the local level because of voter apathy.
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When fewer people vote, that gives much more power to the few who do, and even more power to those who seek and hold elected office at the local level.
In the Methuen Central District City Council race there were only 25 votes separating second place winner Joel Faretra and third place finisher Dennis Deeb.
In the Mayor’s race, Dan Shabilia was knocked out of the primary by only 282 votes.
With so few people voting and taking seriously the role local government plays in their daily lives, elected and appointed officials know that they can break any rules they want, and nobody is going to hold them accountable.
In Lawrence there are three school committee races without a single candidate. In Methuen there are five candidates running for six seats on the school committee. That’s nothing short of depressing.
You might think that with all of the controversy of the Methuen Schools overspending $4M, the threat of teacher layoffs earlier this year, the superintendent resigning in disgrace because she lied about being certified and licensed, the fury that was unleashed when the art and music classes were said to be cancelled to balance the budget… you would think with all this, the voters, particularly the parents in Methuen, would step up to the plate and flood the ballot with over a dozen candidates determined to turn their school system around… you know… for the sake of the children.
But you would be wrong.
Methuen is faced with three write in candidates trying to get the uncontested school committee seat, while those who actually have their names on the ballot have nobody demanding their platforms, they are not knocking on doors, and will truly be accountable to NOBODY.
Susan Nicholson is the only incumbent running for reelection who voted not to fire Judy Scannell and she will never have to answer for that vote.
What happens the next time a vote like this comes up? Do you think Ms. Nicholson is more or less likely to side with the insiders instead of the taxpayers? I think we all know that answer to that question.
Your local school committee is in charge of educating your children in our failing public schools. When the community is not engaged and doesn’t get involved in the school committee races it allows people to hold power who are either incompetent or do not have the best interest of the voters in mind. And why should they when the voters themselves don’t seem to care?
What’s more, your city council and mayor are in charge of setting your property tax bills, how many cops are patrolling your neighborhood, and whether or not your trash is picked up. These quality of life issues are paramount to living in a safe and prosperous city. When fewer people vote, more power is created for the political insiders and quality of life is diminished. People get hired because of who they are related to and private contracts go to those who shelled out campaign donations in the last election.
We have long said that if you do not vote you are part of the problem.
Now, with the myriad of scandals and crises plaguing Lawrence, Methuen and even Haverhill, not voting means you are giving your tacit consent to the way things are. It means things are most likely not going to change, and if they do they won’t change for the better.
If you care about peace in your neighborhood, how much you are paying in property taxes, whether or not your schools are dumbing down your children, or if a police officer or firefighter is going to get to you in time at a moment of crisis, you need to do the one thing that can affect all of that… VOTE! ◊